Human Rights Watch recognizes the Egyptian government’s obligation to address serious threats to the security of its citizens and residents, including the threat of bombing attacks by militant armed groups. We believe, however, that terrorist violence can be fought more effectively using methods that are consistent with international human rights standards. 

In particular, we believe that the Egyptian government should stop relying on its Emergency Law, which allows indefinite detention without adequate legal process, as the basis of its counterterrorism effort.

Human Rights Watch urges the Egyptian government to adopt the 2002 recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture.111

Additionally Human Rights Watch offers the following specific recommendations for counterterrorism reform:

To President Hosni Mubarak

Regarding SSI detention practices:

  • Lift the state of emergency, repeal Egypt’s Emergency Law, and order the interior ministry to investigate and prosecute all terrorism related crimes under the existing Egyptian penal code.

  • Order the Interior Ministry to initiate a thorough, impartial, and speedy investigation of the allegations of torture of the detainees and to prosecute or discipline government officials responsible for abuses committed against the detainees.

  • State publicly that the government will not tolerate torture and ill-treatment, and that abuses by law enforcement personnel, including SSI agents, will be investigated, prosecuted, and punished.

  • Regarding proposals for a new counterterrorism law:

  • Facilitate a more transparent and deliberative process for drafting and debating any proposed counterterrorism legislation. Draft legislation should be available for public discussion for a reasonable period of time before it is submitted to a vote.

  • Add safeguards to any planned counterterrorism legislation to prevent indefinite or arbitrary detention.

  • Reject abusive provisions, such as those contained in the Emergency Law, including articles allowing SSI or other authorities to hold detainees for more than 24 hours without charge or legal process; articles which allows the interior ministry to issue six month detention decrees; and articles which allow civilians to be prosecuted in special State Security courts and military tribunals.

  • To the Interior Ministry

    Regarding the Victorious Sect detentions:

  • Immediately implement the release orders made by the SSI prosecutors office in mid 2006 applicable to the ten remaining detainees alleged to have belonged to the Victorious Sect.

  • Order the Office of the Prosecutor General to initiate a thorough, impartial, and speedy investigation of the allegations of torture of the detainees.

  • Prosecute or discipline as appropriate government officials, regardless of rank, responsible for abuses committed against the detainees.

  • Issue a public explanation of the basis for the Victorious Sect arrests and of any official misconduct that occurred during the arrests and subsequent detentions.

  • Regarding SSI detention practices:

  • Promptly release all detainees in prisons, SSI facilities, or other detention places, unless they can be and have been charged with a criminal offense.

  • Ensure that any detainees who are charged with crimes are provided fair trials and all related due process guarantees as required by Egyptian and international law.

  • Ensure that family members and legal counsel have prompt access to persons shortly after arrest and thereafter.

  • Establish a public registry of persons detained in connection with terrorism-related investigations. The registry should include the place and date of arrest and, if different, the date of entry into custody, present place of detention, and the legal basis for detention. Make this information available to the families of detained persons.

  • Conduct thorough and impartial inquiries into allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture, and other mistreatment.

  • Prosecute and discipline as appropriate officials implicated in violations of the law.

  • Ensure that persons arrested arbitrarily or subjected to torture or other ill-treatment have access to prompt and fair compensation.

  • Ensure that all detainees are held in legally sanctioned detention facilities, and that detainees are not held or interrogated by any other branches or parts of the Interior Ministry outside of those legally permitted to hold detainees.

  • Issue and publicize widely directives stating that acts of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials will not be tolerated, that reports of torture and ill-treatment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and that those found responsible will be held accountable.

  • Direct the Office of the Prosecutor General to fulfill its responsibility under Egyptian law to investigate, in a thorough, impartial, and timely manner, all torture allegations against law enforcement officials, regardless of rank.

  • Ensure prompt and independent forensic medical examinations of detainees who allege that they have been subject to torture and other abuse.

  • Allow access for Egyptian and international human rights monitors to places of detention, including SSI facilities, and the opportunity to conduct confidential discussions with detainees of their choosing.

  • 111 Committee against Torture, “Conclusions and Recommendations, Egypt,” U.N. Doc. CAT/C/CR/29/4 (2002), para. 6.